20 January 2012

The Ones that Got Away

As a vintage clothing seller, my personal wardrobe is usually full of finds (drastically limited now that nothing fits).  Sometimes there are pieces that I thrift or discover that I just can't stand to let go of.  Like anyone, though, I also sometimes agonize over purchases for my personal closet. The delight of vintage clothing is that you're not going to find someone else wearing the same garment as you, but that's also, of course, one of the limitations with vintage.  The message is, if you don't buy it when you see it, you will probably lose it to someone else.

Whenever I wait too long and lose something I really love, I am instantly filled with shopping sadness. Sometimes I keep these items in my favorites so I can go back and stare at them and think about what could have been.  This has happened to me so frequently lately, that I couldn't help but feature some of these lovelies. Maybe one day I'll see them (or their twin?) around vintage land.  Until then:

 1960s dress by Judith Martin found at Custard Heart Vintage

Why I liked it: I loved that this dress had such fun sleeves and this nice, thick quilted skirt. Also, the wrap around ribbon finished it off perfectly. Major bonus, because of the height of the waistline and the fullness of the skirt, it looked like something I could wear in this weird middle stage of pregnancy I'm in as well as postpartum as well.

How I would wear it: I envisioned myself sporting this lovely frock to teach in with maroon tights and brown boots.  If I was cold, I thought I could easily put on a long sleeved tissue tee underneath for some layering action.

Why I hesitated: Because my body is changing, I wanted to try on some things in my closet and compare those measurements to this dress.  This, my friends, is always a smart idea, but if you keep dragging your feet on it like I did, someone will steal your dress. True story.

1960s wool and faux fur coat found at Hollie Point Vintage

Why I liked it: This coat is the perfect combination of factors. I confess I love some leopard print, but it can be overwhelming. This coat has the right amount and the cream really offsets it well.  This coat is also my preferred winter coat length for blustery northern NY days.

How I would wear it: This would be a go to coat for me. I think it works as a staple and I'd probably have taken it everywhere.

Why I hesitated: Because of the cut, this really isn't pregnancy friendly.  While I have quite a few coats in my wardrobe, I don't have one that will work for me until the cold weather clears out so I decided I should save my pennies and use them on something that can keep me warm now rather than later.

vintage kimono jacket found at Pretty Little World Vintage

Why I liked it: This red is such a gorgeous color and the tone on tone flowers really add to the overall look.  I also liked the square neckline and, of course, the drape of the sleeves.

How I would wear it: I would have put this with skinny jeans or gray skinny pants followed up by some chunky heels. I probably would have gone with black shoes, but a contrasting color would have been amazing as well.

Why I hesitated: I'm not entirely sure! This really would have been pregnancy friendly. I think I had a long moment of if I could pull this outfit off and look fashionable in my rural, conservative area.

1960s crewel work dress by Anne Fogerty found at Raleigh Vintage

Why I liked it: This dress is impossible not to love. I mean look at that design! Plus I remembered seeing this dress's twin on Veronika of tick tock vintage and loving it then.

How I would wear it:  I would have worn this to work with some coordinating heels and later paired it with a cardigan. I do like how Veronika layered it with a long sleeve tee and I would probably have tried that out as well.

Why I hesitated:  This was a case of me being too cautious of spending any money.  My mom loved it so much that she offered to buy it for me, but then that made me feel guilty.  And then I almost bought it and then didn't and then almost bought it and then didn't. While I was arguing with myself, it sold.

What are your shopping regrets?

17 January 2012

Color Inspiration: American Kestrel

Nature doesn't make mistakes when it comes to color, which is why when I saw this gorgeous American Kestrel photograph floating around on pinterest yesterday I marveled not only on the beauty of this bird, but the interplay of colors in its feathers. From the deep russet browns to the silvery gray atop its head to that intense mustard yellow of its feet and beak, this bird is a color inspiration.

Because I have plenty of mustard yellow items that I want to figure out in my wardrobe, it seemed fitting that this bird would be the first in my series on using nature for color inspiration.  There are plenty of websites that will create color palettes for you based on any picture you upload or link to and I encourage everyone to try it out when they're feeling stuck or just want to break down the colors in an image.  I was given two color palettes, the second of which I'm using here as a source for finding vintage and modern pieces to place together in an outfit.  I'm still getting a handle on what it is that I'm looking for, but I hope this is a solid first attempt.

Using this color palette shown above, I then found elements that coordinated with those colors.  This takes some getting used to, but it can be helpful when trying to think of what to pair with wardrobe elements you already have or when you are purchasing new items.

Outfit consists of:
1970s novelty print tunic found at Old Gold Vintage, $25
handknit mustard purse found at NzLBags, $95
brown ponte seamed leggings from Mossimo found at Target, $16
brown Banddit boots from Steve Madden found at shoemall, $170

And, if you want those American Kestrel colors in one garment, there's this wonderful dress 1960s found at Thrush, but it felt too much like cheating to use it since it was already so perfect:

16 January 2012

Spotlight: Claire McCardell

cotton dress, 1942

The other day I was prowling around The Met's Costume Institute online collections and building a ridiculous dream wardrobe pinterest board I discovered over and over that I was drawn to designer Claire McCardell's work.  While obviously fancy beaded evening gowns have their place, I'm much more interested in everyday fashions and cocktail attire which is what the shop focuses on.  Claire McCardell's brilliantly structured pieces certainly fit with my personal aesthetic so I set out to learn more about her work.

Claire McCardell mainly worked under the Townley Frocks label, a ready-to-wear brand that began in 1931.  After the Townley Frocks label closed in the late 1930s, McCardell briefly worked for Hattie Carnegie, but McCardell's designs did not find success with Carnegie's clients who were expecting something a bit more upscale.  Eventually, McCardell went back under the Townley Frocks name.  The line was picked up by Lord & Taylor as part of their American Look campaign and become one of their most successful lines.

cotton playsuit, 1944

The American Look was distinctly different from most designer fashions of the time which either came directly out of France or from American designers who were influenced by French fashion.  These fashions even can seem distinctly modern by today's standards.  She also incorporated simple fabrics such as wool, ticking, and mens shirting into her designs because she wanted to create items that suited the American approach to life, active and casual.  These casual elements and fabrics were not just limited to everyday wear, but also incorporated into evening clothes and bathing suits as well.

One of McCardell's signature designs was what is refered to as the "popover."  The first outfit here is an example of a popover.  The popover is designed for busy housewives and could be thrown on quickly and offer instant style.  They came with a coordinating oven mitt.  These dresses would have sold for just $6.95 and were widely popular.

cotton dress, 1953-1957

McCardell passed away in 1958 at the age of 53 from colon cancer.  Her influence, though, continues with designers such as Isaac Mizrahi and Anna Sui giving a nod to her in many of their collections.
"Celebrating Claire McCardell," New York Times, 1998.
"Label Resource Guide: Claire McCardell," Vintage Fashion Guild.

13 January 2012

Collecting: Dear Diary

 I once had this idea that I was going to collect diaries and transcribe them.  The transcriptions would then be hyper-linked in excess so that these historical documents became connected to the vibrant interconnected web we call the internet.  The basic problem with this plan, is of course, time.  It takes an excessive amount of time to accurately read and type out the contents of diaries. So instead, I'm featuring my vintage diary collection here. On occasion, I will feature a few weeks or a month of the diary entries from one of my collection.  I will, of course, continue to collect more as I go.

Today's diary is a very special one. It belonged to my great-grandmother Emmerance Albina Forget(te).  She was born in 1899. After her mother passed away in 1914, Albina took care of her ten siblings. She married William Cumm in 1917 and they lived with their daughter Thelma in Plattsburgh, NY a town nestled in the Champlain Valley region of upstate New York. Her diary dates from 1934.  Albina was 35 years old that year.

 **blank lines in the transcription indicate that the writing was indecipherable
Albina M. Cumm
Plattsburgh, NY
December 25th, 1933
From Thelma

January 1
The first day of the year. We spent it quietly at home. A wet dreary day. Rained all day. Temp. 38 above. Thelma took care of Barbara & Junior in the evening while Frances went and saw “Love of a Sailor” with Joe Brown. Bea and Nelson here in the evening. Charlie got all moved yesterday on Margaret Street now. Bill will work at Rock’s tomorrow.

January 2
10 below zero this morning. What a morning. Washed today. Bill worked at Rock’s. Nelson came and got “Jipper” Charlie’s dog. Baker will take him down to the creek and shoot him. Had Ed Aubin come over this evening. Nothing much happened today.

January 3
Temperature stays about the same. A few flakes of snow flying around. Bill worked to Rock’s and I work at Missus Katherine’s & his in forenoon. The family were all in to dinner at Mrs. Barthow In evening. We may possibly get a radio this week. Pearl phone me she wished to sell hers. Will see her later.

January 4
Same temperature this morning stays so cold. Bill worked again at Rock’s. Went over to ___ in the evening. Listened to the radio. It was good. Heard several Hollywood stars. Ed came over before that. Nothing else to write about.

January 5
Nice out this morning. Thelma & I went to Aunt Vina’s. Have bought Pearl’s radio. Now to go over and get it. Ed Aubin over in evening played with the Adirondack Mountaineers over Plattsburgh lane today. Good. Joe Gonyo buried today. Ed Raymond very ill in Hospital ____ mass. pneumonia.

January 6
Warmer than warm today. All water and slush. Bill work at Rock’s today also yesterday. Got the radio from Pearl’s. Enjoyed it heaps the first evening. Stayed up to 1am. E.A. came over around 10. Nelson was the one to get and bring the radio. Couldn’t get it in our car.

January 7
Went to 8:30 mass at St. John’s. Warm and nice. Went to ___ in the afternoon. Charlie, Letta & the baby also Ed Aubin came with us. Radio good in the evening. Marion and Harold & Mrs. ____ came over awhile. Florence and Huard to Pa’s today. Also Albert & the kids. Thelma goes back to school tomorrow.

January 8
Monday nice and warm. Not much of anything new. Mrs. B___ planning on going to the hotel this week. Will now look for two months or more (maybe).

January 9
This day still warm and nice. Worked at Mrs. Barthow’s packing up. She will go to the Cumberland tomorrow until April 1st. Nothing exciting happening.

January 10
Wednesday another warm nice day. Helped Mrs. B again this forenoon. Thelma, Mrs. Weatherwax, and I went to the movies saw Marie Dressler in “Her Sweetheart” very funny. Nelson started work with Bill today.

January 11
Thursday. Worked at Mrs. Mooney 2 ½ hours today. Ed came in a few minutes in evening. Warm and cloudy. No sun. Nelson and Bea came a little while last night while we were at the movies.

January 12
Same sort of weather as yesterday. Cloudy & warm. Worked 2 hours at Mrs. Mooney in afternoon. Mrs. Weatherwax and I went to the library and post office. Mrs. Hazeltine died sometime this morning funeral Sunday. Ed came over a couple of hours.

January 13
Saturday. Still mild nothing very exciting. Stayed home all day. Edward came in evening. 9.15 we went over to Mr. Hazeltine remained til 11.15 funeral will be tomorrow. Looked real nice and natural. Loads of flowers. She loved them. Snowed hard when we came home. Trees all white and pretty.

January 14
Waded through the snow to the 830 mass at St. Johns. About 6 to 8 inches of snow fell throughout the nite. Went to the funeral. Cold windy 12 above at 4 oclock. Charles & Nelson were pallbearers. Also Nelson Gebo, Roland Loso, Mose Loso & Geo Cook. Bea, Lea, & Thelma took care of the home. Charlie & Lee home for supper. Ed and Mr. Weatherwax came in the evening. Radio good.

January 15
Monday and colder. Sunshine in afternoon. Mrs. Weatherwax and I went uptown. Stopped at Mrs. Barthow’s room at Cumberland Hotel 108. Put in three new tubes in radio. Can’t get a thing. Don’t know what ails the darn thing. Mr. Fisk looked it over. Washed my better grain dress and shortened one Mrs. Barthow gave me.

January 16
Nice and warm. 40 above or so. Sunny. Washed today. Bill still at Rock’s. Nelson there too. Cliff up to dinner. Mr. Fisk came back found a dead tube in the new ones took it back. Hope it plays tonite. She wants some music to liven things up a bit. Nelson came in and got radio going. Ed came in a few minutes.

January 17
Cold this morning. About zero. 4 below. Worked Mrs. Katherine 3 hours. Ironed most of afternoon. Mrs. Weatherwax and Ed came in evening. Radio good. Bill went down to Rocks and Freeman. Must see Mrs. Barthoy tomorrow.

January 18
14 below this morning. Will work at Mrs. Mooney this morning. Didn’t get much else done except ironing. Thelma and I went to the movies. Saw Maurice Chevalier in “The Way to Love.” Rather funny.  Saw Mrs. Barthoy at noon. Gave me 3 for taking care of her plants.

January 19
Warm today but snowing. Marion came in today. Ed in here tonight. Nothing worth while writing about. Bill & Nelson went down to ___ today. Mrs. Weatherwax & Ed came in tonite also Marion and Harold. Had a game of cards.

January 20
Cold as Hades today 20 below once again. Got a letter from Henry. Says Pa’s been sick. Huard & Florence & Joyce came down. Bill worked at Rock’s in afternoon. Bea & Nelson, Charles & Leeta & baby. Mrs. Greeno and Marion, Ed, all in evening. Played radio until 1:30. Had so much fun played cards.

January 21
Went to 830 mass this morn Mrs. Weatherwax, Thelma, & I. Cold as the old horny. 20 below again. Waited for our wood until 530. Dad's 38th wedding anniversary today. Alone at home all day. Radio good in evening.

January 22
Cold again. Went 10 below last night. Henry came down today. Got a job in the mill also Albert and Edward one too.  All here in evening to go to father's had to turn back. Roads were blocked. Bea & Nelson Charles & Leeta here also Ed. Albert staid up until 11 oclock, had guitar, harmonica. Mrs. Greeno was over too.

January 23
Rather nice out today. Hazel & Frank up in evening. Marion & Mrs. Greeno came in while they were here. Nothing new to write about.

January 24
Wrote Henry today. Sent Pa check for 15.00 went down to the bank and withdrew 50.00 from interest and placed in checking account. Pa had 450 interest.  Thelma & I went to Leeta while Mrs. Weatherwax & Eddie came in evening. Also Marion for a minute. Ed quit his job today.

January 25
Went out again. Mrs. Weatherwax went to the doctor's today. Henry ___ came over in uniform with another friend. He enlisted in 26th infantry last week. Ed was over til 10 oclock. Nothing new to write about.  A man named ___ was killed on the job Albert was working on. Bricks fell on his head.

January 26
Way below zero this morning. ___ ___ home. Henry here. Nothing else to write about. Mrs. Weatherwax & Ed came in during the day.

January 27
Nothing of importance. Ed in evening. Radio good. Nelson & Bea went to Chazy after fixing car. Bill paid us tire. Charlie came in for awhile in afternoon.

January 28
Raining. Went to 830 mass at St. Peter's. Thelma, Ed & I. Bill went to 9:15 mass. Had dinner with Hazel & Frank. Such a nice dinner. Stopped at Pa's on way back. Florence, Huard & Joyce there. Lee, Charlie, &; baby. Nelson & Bea. Baby sick. Florence & Huard were here for supper.

January 29
Monday 18 below zero. Ever see such weather? 46 degree difference in 12 hours. Marion in a few minutes. Nelson also. Bill went to work. Leeta came back with Thelma. Charlie here a few minutes.

January 30
Cold again. 20 below. Mrs. Weatherwax left for Ticonderoga on 1153 train. Hate to see her go. Will miss her. Ed in in the evening. Henry here too. Uncle Mose over in the afternoon to get Frank's address.

January 31
One month gone already. Winter can't go by too fast to suit me. Hope February will be ___ __. Cold again this morning. Worked at Miss Katherine's this forenoon, worked this afternoon. Henry here also Albert. Ed in evening. Seems funny not to see Mrs. Weatherwax across the way.

12 January 2012

Week 17

Outfit consists of:
Necklace: 1940s book locket found at Jean Jean Vintage
Sweater: acrylic sweater from Romeo & Juliet Couture found at TJ Maxx
Shirt: gray tee found at TJ Maxx
Jeans: dark wash skinny jeans from Domaine found at TJ Maxx
Boots: brown A2 by Aerosoles boots found at Kohls

Week 17 of this pregnancy and I'm frustrated. In my real life, my husband kindly calls me militant about my political views (but I emphasize I don't bring this into my classrooms) so it's no wonder that larger scale issues associated with pregnancy and parenting have more than set me on edge.  I've been lumping these issues together into a category I call the politics of pregnacy, but they really touch on issues of social, political, and medical views of pregnancy and parenting.

What exactly has me angry? Well the issues are broad, but they really boil down to the core issue of how the female body in general, but specifically in relation to child having and raising, becomes public.  In crafting the female body as a publicly accessible entity, women are constantly bombarded by social, political, and medical controls. Already during this pregnancy I've questioned fear-based medical practices associated with prenatal care, the invasion of personal space by strangers while pregnant, and the near constant litany of advice-forcing by every person you've ever known. The last one is yes, a bit tricky, but there's a marked difference between "Hey have you tried this? It worked for me and it may help!" and "You have to do this." or "You absolutely cannot do that."

There's been a few heated and lively discussions on my personal Facebook page about these issues and I've really wanted to have a forum in which to continue them and engage with a broader audience.  I debated starting up a new blog specifically devoted to it, but I barely have time to keep up with one blog. I've also debated writing a series of essays, and I may still do this, but I'm hoping this sporadic series of posts will start as a proving ground for my ideas and concerns. 

Least you be concerned that a vintage clothing blog will devolve into heated political debate, I doubt you need to worry.  I intend for these posts to be infrequent, perhaps once or twice a month to start and if they prove successful I'll schedule a day for them.  What does it actually mean in terms of content, well I'm hoping you'll help with some ideas.  To begin with some topic ideas I've been thinking over, I've come up with:

1. Why has there been a shift in the American medical system wherein pregnancy information relies on fear (food lists, habits that will harm you and your fetus) rather than relaying health and wellness empowering practices? What can I do about this?
2.  What is it about pregnancy that allows for strangers to feel the need to monitor and approve your individual behaviors? How do I get people to mind their own business?
3. How do I raise a child without gendered stereotypes or hetero-normative expectations of love and relationships?
So ladies (and gents if you're reading!) what about pregnancy and parenting have you struggled with?

11 January 2012

The Red Shoes

Last night I watched The Red Shoes (1948) as part of a poem I'm working on collecting imagery for. As I've mentioned before, I'm working on a series of poems about missing women in America, and Lola Celli, missing since 1946, is one of the women whose story I need to tell.  There was a lot of mystery surrounding Lola's disappearance, but she was last seen wearing an aqua dress and red Cuban heels. Later, someone reported seeing a single red shoe in the middle of a nearby road.  In the poem, I had originally planned on mixing imagery from The Wizard of Oz with Lola's story, but then I decided to connect it to other ominous connections with red shoes so that the poem can work more broadly.

I feel as though the only reason I know about The Red Shoes is because of commercials with Martin Scorsese in which he discusses the importance of saving our film history.  It is unusual for me to have missed it until now given the fact that the film is considered one of Britain's greatest and it was a commercial success in America.  In brief, The Red Shoes is a story within a story featuring a hopeful ballet dancer, Victoria, who is picked to perform the ballet The Red Shoes (based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale) while under the thumb of the controlling head of the ballet company, Lermontov.  She falls in love with Julian, an aspiring musician who himself is quickly working his way up the ranks within the company eventually writing the score for the ballet The Red Shoes. This connection between Victoria and Julian spoils Lermontov's professional and personal plans for Victoria.

Martin Scorsese has a particular love for The Red Shoes calling it one of the greatest visual pieces shot in color film.  It certainly does not disappoint on that record and the continued and pressing image of red ballet shoes connects the story of Victoria with that of her unnamed character in the ballet production. While the viewer is hopeful for a romance between Victoria and Julian to function despite Lermontov's opposition, the image of the red shoes is a message to the viewer that love can not prevail and that Victoria the dancer and Victoria's character in the ballet will both, quite pointedly, be danced to death.

While the imagery of the red shoes is what drew me to the film, and ultimately is what will be distilled into poetic form, it's also interesting to see The Red Shoes on a broader social and cinematographic level.  Socially, the message imbedded within The Red Shoes is that women cannot have it all.  While Victoria would love to have the presence of love and dance within her life, it is clear from the start that Lermontov, who has the power to influence the entirety of her career, does not think this is possible. This messaging is something that we continue to hear in regards to women who want to have family and career in their lives.  This is something, we are told, that is just not possible.  To be fair, Julian also experiences this pull and messaging, but he does not have to pay the price with his life in the same way that Victoria does.

As a film about ballet, The Red Shoes fits into a larger genre and it's interesting to see how films borrow from one another, or are just plainly derivative in general. While Black Swan was hailed for its presentation and beauty, it clearly borrows heavily from its predecessor in terms of visual effect and atmosphere. I'm not sure if this makes Black Swan a more interesting film, or degrades its presence in the genre. If I had to choose between the two, I would most certainly pick The Red Shoes for its impressive score and more subtle movements.

And, before I go, I'll leave you with a Kate Bush video since this song and its containing album are inspired by the film.

09 January 2012

Icons + Fashion

I heard that Ebony magazine started a tumblr with magazine covers and ads and it's true. They only have a few pages thus far, but hopefully they'll be adding more soon. These were my favorites from the ones they have up. Icons + fashion = amazing!

Aretha Franklin, December 1971
This dress is stunning and let's just say it wouldn't look half as good on me as it does on the ever amazing Aretha.

Lena Horne, April 1962
I'm trying not to wish that I could tackle Lena Horne and steal her earrings, and check out that blue eyeshadow!

January 1970
I have no idea who this is, but I'm guessing since there isn't an accompanying front page blurb she's a model? If anyone knows, tell me!

Diana Ross, February 1970
Wow, just wow! And as a side note, I wish I was handy at eyeliner.

06 January 2012


You may have noticed at Vint Condition I very rarely sell jewelry. While I tend to buy it for my own personal collection, I tend to stay away from it as a seller mostly because there are really fabulous and knowledgeable vintage and antique sellers who specialize in jewelry items. My collection is filled with pieces from my paternal great-grandmother and both grandmothers, lockets, modern beaded jewelry, and the amazing work of Lisa from tree & kimball.

In general, I don't collect much beyond vintage clothing, far too many shoes, and so many books that I'm pretty sure my house groans in protest whenever I add more, but lately I've been really interested in starting a collection of trench art rings.  What are trench art rings, you ask? During times of war (and times waiting for war) soldiers made art and jewelry from whatever they had on hand.  There's  many examples of beautiful pieces created from cannonballs, shell casings, or even plaited pieces of straw.


Trench art rings in specific were often made from coins using the process you see here.  Many of these rings also featured scratched on inscriptions detailing the year and place of the conflict or battle.  The handiwork done on each of these rings means that they really are one of a kind pieces specific to the time and the individual creating them.  They also invoke pieces of forgotten history as we often neglect to remember those who fought in various and lesser-known conflicts around the world or, in fact, even retain knowledge of those conflicts at all.


I've realized over time that even though military history was not my specialty in undergrad, I am interested in the physical remnants of those times.  I can see this in the military jackets I own from my father and the military ring he bought me that I often wear.  In yesterday's post you can see the army shirt I recently added to my collection and I'm certain that trench art rings are going to make their appearance on many gift lists in the future.


05 January 2012


I'm (finally) ready to announce some really big news. My husband and I are having a baby! Well, mostly I'm having a baby, but he's been pretty awesome in looking after us along the way.

Today I am officially 16 weeks, which places me very firmly in the second trimester and I have to say that things are finally looking up.  My absence from the blog? Well, the first trimester was pretty rough. I won't say it was the worst, but it wasn't all that pleasant.  It seems every pregnant and formerly pregnant woman regaled me with horror stories of their own experiences and in comparison I felt kind of wimpy, but I was perfectly fine with that. In the end, I simply tried to make sure I had enough energy to wrangle classes full of college students and stay on top of grading their assignments which meant it was necessary to reduce my efforts elsewhere.

But for now, baby, husband, and I are doing well.  Little baby chickadee has an official due date of June 21st which happens to be my dad's birthday. In one of our last conversations, I asked him to please pick out some good kids for me, and I really believe he has.